Intikhab Alam    Getty Images
Intikhab Alam Getty Images

Intikhab Alam has been extensively involved in the Pakistan team management with a number of roles. He had claimed a wicket in the opening ball of his Test debut. Intikhab also won the 1992 World Cup with Pakistan as the coach, and also the 2009 World T20. With an eventful career and with possibly more to come ahead, Intikhab spoke on his career, while he also revealed few of the greatest leg-spinners in the world. He also spoke about Umar Akmal’s disappointing career so far. Pakistan replace Intikhab Alam with Wasim Bari as team manager

On his management job so far with Pakistan cricket

“What keeps me going is the passion. Accepting the challenge and giving my best. You have to work hard and be sincere. If you do that right, I believe it pays off. I have enjoyed my involvement with cricket thoroughly. Obviously winning the 1992 World Cup is unforgettable. I was coach cum manager at that time. Then in 2009, we won the World T20 at Lord’s. Recently I was also very fortunate to receive my honourary PHD degree from the University of Lancaster for my services to cricket. I cherish that moment too,” said Intikhab in an exclusive interview with Cricbuzz.

“Imran Khan obviously played a massive role. The message from him was very clear and it was simple. ‘Don’t give up’. We knew we had a difficult task. We had a few injuries to start with. But we peaked at the right time. At one stage you could sense the confidence was bubbling up. It was amazing to win after no one gave us a chance. Imran was not hundred percent fit. But nobody in the team knew about it. We didn’t tell anybody. We kept on treating him, giving him pain killers, tablets and injections. The first few hours as he was warming up before a game, he was in absolute agony. It was a great achievement for Pakistan cricket.”

On winning the 2009 World T20

“We picked up slowly. Younis Khan’s motto in that competition too was to fight till the last. I always say that if your match winners peak at the right time, you have a good chance of winning any competition. You need to have a fit team; you need to have a vision for the team and most importantly unity within the team. As coach, your role is to get the best out of everybody. This is where human psychology plays a major part. If you have an idea how you can get the best out of someone then that helps. I have seen that over the past so many years.”

On his stint with Surrey

“Before I joined Surrey, I was actually with Scotland. I played for West of Scotland Cricket Club. The reason I went there was to get used to playing on soft wickets. There was this notion those days that a leg-spinner can’t take wickets on grassy wickets and I proved a lot of people wrong. When England came to Pakistan, I did well against them. John Edrich was impressed and he said if you are interested in playing county cricket let me know. I was getting ready to go to Scotland and I stopped over in London for a few days and they requested me to come over. Mickey Stewart was the captain. Stuart Surridge was the chairman. I was bowling in the nets and they offered me to play there straight away. My club in Scotland was very nice to me. The three years I spent with them, we were able to win three championships. They were sad that I was leaving but they didn’t stop me. I had 13 years at Surrey and loved the experience. Some great people and I still have contacts with them. It was a great club.”

“When I joined them in 1969, the wickets were really good. They were good batting tracks. Harry Brent, who was the curator at Chelmsford, had moved to Surrey. He started relaying the new pitches. Then the wickets started to have more carry and bounce. It doesn’t matter if the ball doesn’t turn. Once you have the bounce you can be lethal. Mostly people started admitting that leg-spinners can win you matches in whatever the conditions are there. The Oval is an amazing ground. It perhaps has the most squares in the world. They have something like 40 pitches.”

On Yasir Shah and Shadab Khan

“Both are not great flighters of the ball. Yasir Shah is quicker through the air. Shadab has been very successful in limited-overs cricket. He is actually able to turn the ball more than Yasir because of his action. He has got a long way to go. He has to learn how to bowl a flipper and stuff like that. Both of them are not old fashioned type of legspinners. That’s because of limited-overs cricket. All want to get into ODI teams these days.”

“Very good prospect Shadab though. Once he starts to bowl the flipper, he will be even more effective. You see with the rules changing so much – when we were playing it was very tough to get an lbw decision. You could keep on bowling the whole day and the batsmen keep on padding you but you hardly get an lbw decision. But now if you bowl within the stumps and if you hit, you get a wicket. It was tough in our days to get a decision for leg before wicket.”

“Once he starts bowling in Test matches it will be different. Wrong’un is a wicket taking ball. You shouldn’t bowl two or three of them an over. Preserve it. Use it carefully. Otherwise the teams will start watching you closely and eventually work you out. You have to be smart. Whenever you bowl a wrong’un, you must get a wicket. When you bowl too many of them, that’s a bad idea. Be selective. The leg-break is your stock ball and then you work on variations. Also it depends on what type of wicket you bowl. If the ball is not turning and skidding through, then you have to change the angle trying to deliver from the bowling crease and stuff.”

On the greatest leg-spinner in the world

“If you talk statistically it’s Shane Warne. He was a great turner of the ball, especially the leg-break. Anil Kumble was quick through the air. He wasn’t a great turner of the ball but had good control. He had a wrong’un but not so great. But he was an outstanding bowler. Abdul Qadir had a very deceptive wrong’un. He wasn’t a big turner. He developed the flipper later on, but his main weapon was the wrong’un. Qadir wasn’t far away from Warne.”

On Umar Akmal

“He actually was with the ‘A’ team in Australia and I took him down to Sri Lanka because the talent was evident. He has ruined his career due to his own follies. He has a long way to go still, but he has to discipline himself. He will probably get back to the side.”

On his Test debut

“Yes it was against Richie Benaud’s side. He was another leg-spinner. I took a wicket off my first ball in Test cricket. I was the first and only Pakistani to do so far. It was their opener Colin McDonald. Then soon I went on the tour of India. It was my first tour with the Pakistan team. There was some terrific cricket played, but all five games were drawn. The last game at Delhi was a classic. We were lucky to save that game. Great memories. Fazal Mahmood was the captain and we had Hanif Mohammad too. It was a good sporting rivalry. We got on well with the opposition players. India too had a strong side. There was Jaisimha, Manjrekar, Umrigar, Borde and Contractor was the skipper.”